“I never said I disapproved of you,” she remarked.
He seated himself opposite her, on the other side of the hearth, and regarded her quizzically.
“No. But you do, all the same. Naturally, you would after my candour! And I’d rather you did, too,” he added abruptly. “But at least you’ve no more devoted admirer of your art. You know, dancing appeals to me in a way that nothing else does. My job’s painting—”
“House-painting?” interpolated Magda with a smile. Her spirits were rising a little under his new kindliness of manner.
He laughed with sudden boyishness and nodded gaily.
“Why, yes—so long as people continue to cover their wall-space with portraits of themselves.”
Magda wondered whether he was possibly a well-known painter. But he gave her no chance to find out, for he continued speaking almost at once.
“I love my art—but a still, flat canvas, however beautifully painted, isn’t comparable with the moving, living interpretation of beauty possible to a dancer. I remember, years ago—ten years, quite—seeing a kiddy dancing in a wood.” Magda leaned forward. “It was the prettiest thing imaginable. She was all by herself, a little, thin, black-and-white wisp of a thing, with a small, tense face and eyes like black smudges. And she danced as though it were more natural to her than walking. I got her to pose for me at the foot of a tree. The picture of her was my first real success. So you see, I’ve good reason to be grateful to one dancer!”
Magda caught her breath. She knew now why the man’s face had seemed so familiar! He was the artist she had met in the wood at Coverdale the day Sieur Hugh had beaten her—her "Saint Michel"! She was conscious of a queer little thrill of excitement as the truth dawned upon her.
“What was the picture called?” she asked, forcing herself to speak composedly.
“‘The Repose of Titania.’”
She nodded. The picture was a very well-known one. Everybody knew by whom it had been painted.
“Then you must be Michael Quarrington?”
“Yes. So now, we’ve been introduced, haven’t we?”
It seemed almost as if he had repented of his former churlish manner, and were endeavouring to atone for it. He talked to her about his work a little, then slid easily into the allied topics of music and books. Finally he took her into an adjoining room, and showed her a small, beloved collection of coloured prints which he had gathered together, recounting various amusing little incidents which had attended the acquisition of this or that one among them with much gusto and a certain quaint humour that she was beginning to recognise as characteristic.
Magda, to whom the study of old prints was by no means an unknown territory, was thoroughly entertained. She found herself enthusing, discussing, arguing points, in a happy spirit of camaraderie with her host which, half an hour earlier, she would have believed impossible.